Sarah Rennie The Members of the Chateauguay Valley Teachers Association (CVTA) voted 88 percent in favour of a five-day strike mandate at a Special General Meeting on January 20. All CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Québec) local unions have until the end of the month to vote on the strike mandate and to submit their results. The result reported by the CVTA is in line with those of the vast majority of local unions of English school boards across Quebec, which range from 80 to 93 percent in favour of a strike. With such favourable results, the CSQ will soon begin deliberating on the conditions under which the strike mandate will be rolled out. “Although a strike is the last line of mobilization and pressure tactics available, this is the point at which we are at,” says Nick Ross, the president of the CVTA. “The Collective Agreement expired on March 31st, 2020 however the negotiations process with the government has been ongoing for over a year now and the contract offer of the government negotiators hasn't changed a bit,” he explains. “These actions will hopefully help to unlock the current standstill,” he adds, suggesting a strong strike mandate should serve notice to the government that teachers are frustrated and want real and significant change. “Teachers are working harder than ever right now, and they deserve to have a new contract that reflects the current realities of education in Quebec,” Ross insists, pointing out that the unions are demanding significant investments in public education, as well as improvements to teacher workloads, working conditions and remuneration. Quebec teachers are currently the lowest paid across Canada. According to Statistics Canada the national average for annual salary is $91,930, while the maximum salary of a teacher in Quebec is $80,917. The province is already facing a shortage of legally qualified teachers as well as worrisome attraction and retention rates. “The government can help out this cause by making salaries more attractive and by valuing the teaching profession by increasing teaching professionalism and autonomy and reducing the crippling amount of administrivia that is being dumped on classroom teachers,” says Ross. The unions are aware that the spectre of a looming strike may not sit well with parents and the public in general, admits Ross, however “teachers need their support to pressure the government to help reach a fair deal.” As such, Ross suggests it is important to remember that “teachers don’t just go on strike for themselves, their demands are directly in line with better supporting the learning of their students. You can’t put students first if you put teachers last.” The CVTA will have to provide the New Frontiers School Board with a minimum of seven days’ notice for a strike to be considered legal. “Practically speaking, the first day of strike wouldn’t take place until around mid-February,” confirms Ross.